The Panama Papers Taught us That Vigilante Justice is all we Have

In a world that exists in the shadows, transparency is neither a privilege nor a right

Source: Clay Banks on Unsplash.

Mossack Fonseca notified its clients on April 1, 2016, that their e-mail had been hacked. Immediately after, the law firm told news sources that it had always operated within the parameters of the law.

Edward Snowden dubbed this the “biggest leak in the history of data journalism.”

Formally, people understand this event as the Panama Papers.

The anonymous person in charge of hacking and leaking these documents sent them to a German journalist who published the story. The anonymous hacker cited income inequality as his — or her — motivation.

Around 107 media organizations across 80 countries analyzed the documents in this leak.

There were 11.5 million documents leaked in total, detailing financial activity across a quarter million offshore entities. 250,000. There were documents dating back to the 1970s.

Fraud, tax evasion, evading international sanctions. Anything for these people to keep their money away from lawful eyes and taxation policy. Money that would otherwise go to public resources for the majority of people. This law firm was aiding a secret group of highly wealthy individuals to keep their money as hidden as possible.

Beny Steinmetz owes more than $700,000 in property taxes to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leone — his shell company there is operating at a $150,000,000 loss, even though his exports average twice that amount each month. This is a man with a net worth of $6 billion.

This leak named 12 current or former leaders, 128 public officials and politicians, hundreds of celebrities and business moguls, wealthy individuals across many industries spanning 200 countries.

Because of a lack of clear definitions, The Economist described that “the most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes.”

Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said that “Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share, depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality.”

During the G20 summit, Ambassador of the European Union to India said “We need to strengthen international cooperation of tax information between tax authorities.”

But that’s ironic. Had this hacker never leaked these documents, nobody would have even spoken about it. The problem isn’t that we need strengthening, the problem lies in the people who lead today. The elite play a game on everybody else. The grand wand of symbolic justice to make things right — except there is never a serious motivation to fix what’s essentially broken by design. These leaders at the top understand exactly where their money is going and exactly what they are trying to do.

Otherwise, why would a law firm such as this have all this information and perform all these secret activities?

It’s that same vein that makes us question why Joe Biden’s son was getting paid $60,000 a month by an energy exploration and production company in the Ukraine.

The truth at the very top is intentionally falsified and blurred.

Some of the leaders mentioned in the papers:

  • Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of Georgia.
  • Pavlo Lazarenko of Ukraine.
  • Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a former vice president of Iraq, owned property through Mossack Fonseca shell companies registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
  • Ion Sturza of Moldova.
  • Ali Abu al-Ragheb of Jordan.
  • Sudanese president Ahmed al-Mirghani.
  • Former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
  • Brother-in-law of China’s paramount leader Xi Jinping.
  • Son of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
  • Daughter of former Malaysian prime minister Tessa Tielemans Razak.
  • Children of former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif.
  • Children of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
  • Clive Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of former South African president Jacob Zuma.
  • Nurali Aliyev, the grandson of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
  • Mounir Majidi, the personal secretary of Moroccan king Mohammed VI.
  • Kojo Annan, the son of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
  • Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
  • Juan Armando Hinojosa, the “favourite contractor” of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
  • Spanish Royal Family: Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz and her son Bruno Gómez-Acebes, Iñaki Urdangarín, Amalio de Marichalar.
  • Actor Jackie Chan.
  • About 20 million British pounds of gold that were stolen from Brink’s-Mat robbery in 1983 was laundered with complicity of Mossack Fonseca through a Panamanian company, Feberion Inc.
  • Argentinian president Mauricio Macri.
  • FIFA and illegal soccer dealings.

Here were where some of those funds were laundered or manipulated:

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Source: Wikipedia on the Panama Papers.

Mossack Fonseca tried to respond, releasing statements like this:

“The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing we’ve seen in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything illegal, and that’s very much in keeping with the global reputation we’ve built over the past 40 years of doing business the right way.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Jurgen Mossack said, “The cat’s out of the bag, so now we have to deal with the aftermath.”

By March 2018, the firm closed down due to irreparable damage. Which is a big deal, since they claimed several times that nothing they’ve done was actually illegal.

Today, there is probably another secret law firm in its place, doing the things they were doing.

These hackers are necessary.

While the United States spends around a trillion dollars per year of the taxpayer’s money on defense, the work of a single anonymous human being can reveal the entire illegal network of dealings that’s gone unnoticed and invisible for the last 50 years.

People like this are essential. They’re working for you, free of charge.

When the systems in our society today are built to promote the safety of criminal activity, we need the vigilante hackers.

When the global elite spit on the masses and steal their resources, people like these hackers are the only form of justice we have left.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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